This morning seems another amazing example of how the Lord can order one’s steps, when time alone with the Spirit is sorely needed. Scheduled for an in home mechanical installation, I had left the morning open, only to have that cancelled on Monday. Then, given that cancellation, I had made arrangements for another early morning gathering today, only to be called at 7:30 by the previously cancelled technician, now in route.
Once he arrived, I found out that this very pleasant young man,raised in the Bronx was interestingly enough also named John. We were able to share a cup of coffee after we discovered that the installation would not work! That too was a blessing, and after he left, I then had the privilege of an open morning.
So, I sat down with my old leather backed companion and opened its book mark to Matthew, chapter 14. Of course I have read it scores of times, but as alive as this book surely is, the emotion that came over my spirit was fresh and new. I excitedly ran to the computer to capture my thoughts.
Here we find the story of John the Baptist, beheaded by Herod the tetrarch. John, was the cousin of Jesus, the babe that leaped in the womb of Aunt Elizabeth, the one who had taken significant prophetic risks before Jesus came on the scene. Now in some twisted climax, his head is lifted for mere entertainment, before a group of wicked dinner guests following some lewd dance. Herod, previously threatened by John’s gut level, open honesty and public truth telling, had wanted to kill this prophet for some time, but like most politicians, “he was afraid of the people!” (Matt 14:5 NIV).
Herod had held John the Baptist in prison for some time, as John himself had begun to wonder about Jesus, given his apparent abandonment to a prison cell. You see, I am sure John was not immune to the thought that Jesus’ mission was to deliver Israel from the Romans. Many of the disciples had followed The Christ with that same aspiration, even up until the time that Judas forced the play!
The message I wish to convey is what I saw in the stamina of Jesus once told of John’s beheading. Surely he could read the writing on the wall, if God would allow John’s head to be served on a platter, the cup Jesus had committed too was suddenly becoming more real. As an aside, I would think we modern day Christians, safe for centuries in this great nation, can see some correlation as this demonic means of punishment, beheading, is now being pulled out of mothballs in the name of religion!
Jesus, unlike many of us, was not caught off guard by this dastardly deed, for he understood the challenge before him and did not hold himself apart from the centuries old crises faced by those similarly “thrust into the harvest!” Yet, surely this had an impact on him, as God could have delivered John the Baptist but chose not too. Apparently his beheading was a necessary part of a growing narrative, regarding the resolve required when pushing Kingdom initiatives into a world deluded by sin. I hope you are hearing this, as it relates to our day also!
Perhaps the reason Jesus wept just outside of Lazarus’ tomb was not because his friend was dead, but because he suddenly was gripped by the reality that his followers still had not understood his reason for coming to earth, nor his own pending death and resurrection!
Back to the story, Jesus gets into a boat, with his human heart needing a private moment, perhaps to get his head around his cousin’s brutal death. Instead, he finds himself surrounded by a large crowd of needy people. His response: compassion, healing and provision. We tire way too easily of people!
Something happened on that day that was pivotal in the transfer of His Kingdom to Earth. When the large crowd recognized him and began to gather in the same remote place that he had otherwise planned as a “get away”, Jesus in a “water to wine” like moment, responds to their need, even for food. I find this man amazing and struggle with the fact that he could love me, and love me as if I were the only one on the globe!
In this moment, he chooses to also bump up the engagement of his disciples with this statement: “You give them something to eat.” (Matt. 14:16b NIV). They, stunned, begin to follow instructions, as this marvelous Jesus looks up to heaven, giving thanks for what is unfolding, and begins breaking apart the five loaves and two fishes serendipitously made available by God. He begins handing pieces to the disciples for distribution to well over 5000!
He, unbeknownst to them, was providing something tangible for them to hold onto, when the time came for their own deaths! Making no big to do of this physical miracle and without hesitancy, he asks the disciples to get back in the boat and go on ahead of him; finally, a moment alone to pray.
Apparently after some time, (“evening came”…love the writing) and a storm was brewing on the lake. Of course you know this as the “walk on water” moment for Peter. Jesus was once more defying natural law, again breaking bread, but this time within the souls of the very men who would soon deliver the gospel and give their own lives, post resurrection. Despite the loss of his cousin, Jesus stayed on mission, for the disciples without a doubt, or as much as is humanly possible, now knew that He was the “Son of God” (Matt. 14:32b NIV).
They arrive on shore and another move of God breaks out as people, needy people recognize him. Many were healed by simply touching his clothing! Something had transpired in the spirit of this man, Jesus; and, in the hearts of his followers. This moment would transcend centuries, though not without the brutal beheading of Cousin John!
I must wonder what would happen within own on lives and calling if when life’s dilemmas occur, we were less likely to get bent out of shape, simply realizing that this world is not our home, and this world’s dilemma our mission, so we press on!